February 21, 2024

Canada’s parliament passed a law requiring tech companies to pay domestic news outlets for links to their articles, prompting the owners of Facebook and Instagram to say they would pull news articles from the platforms in the country.

The law passed Thursday is the latest effort by governments around the world to force big companies like Google and Facebook to pay for news shared on their platforms, a move that the companies have resisted almost every time.

But there are caveats that the new Canadian law will force search engines and social media companies to engage in a haggling process and, if necessary, binding arbitration over licensing of news content.

The law, called the Online News Act, is modeled on a similar law passed in Australia two years ago. Its purpose, according to one person, is to “enhance fairness and promote the sustainability of Canada’s digital news market” official summary. Exactly when the law would take effect was unclear as of Friday morning.

Supporters of the legislation see it as a victory for the news media as it struggles to make up for plummeting ad revenue, which it attributes to Silicon Valley companies’ monopoly of the online advertising market.

“A strong, independent and free media is the foundation of our democracy,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Canadian Heritage Minister in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. tweeted Thursday night. “The Online News Act will help ensure fair and equitable negotiations between tech giants and news organizations.”

Technology companies feel differently.

Meta with Facebook and Instagram warned before If the legislation passes, it would stop delivering news to Canadian users on the two platforms, lawmakers said. The company said on Thursday it now plans to do so, Associated Press reports. Representatives for Meta, Facebook and Instagram did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a separate statement, a Google spokesperson criticized legislation considered “not feasible,” and said the company had come up with “thoughtful and pragmatic solutions” to improve it.

Google tell canadian lawmakers In May, debate over the legislation raised unrealistic expectations among politicians and news publishers about “unlimited subsidies for Canadian media.” Among other changes, Google proposes requiring tech companies to pay for “displaying” news content rather than linking to it.

“To date, our concerns have not been addressed,” Google spokeswoman Jenn Crider said in a statement Thursday. She did not say what the company plans to do about the law and declined further comment.

Similar battles have been going on for years in other countries.

In the European Union, countries have struggled to enforce the bloc’s copyright directive passed in 2019, forcing Google, Facebook and other platforms to compensate news organizations for their content.

In Australia, parliament passed a law in 2021 forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news content that appears on their platforms. At the time, Google seemed effectively capitulating when it announced a three-year global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to pay publishers for news content. Facebook has taken the opposite tack, saying it will immediately restrict people and publishers from sharing or viewing news links in Australia.

In the U.S., the Justice Department and eight states sued Google in January, accusing the company of illegally abusing its monopoly on online advertising technology. The lawsuit is the department’s first antitrust complaint against a tech giant under President Joe Biden.

California has also threatened legal pressure on tech companies.This month, the state legislature voted to send a bill to the state senate that would Tax on tech companies distributing news articles.Yuan explain The response said that if the bill became law, it would be “forced” to remove news from Facebook and Instagram.

This month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not reach a compromise with tech companies over the Online News Act.

“The fact that these internet giants would rather cut off Canadians’ access to local news than pay their fair share is a real problem, and now they’re resorting to bullying tactics to try and get their way,” he said. he told reporters. “this will not work.”

Those efforts could backfire, said Michael Guest, a University of Ottawa law professor who specializes in internet and e-commerce regulation.

“This will seriously hurt smaller independent media and leave the field to lower quality outlets,” Professor Guest said. “Worst of all: it was entirely foreseeable and avoidable.”

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